Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Pennington
876 A.2d 642 (Md. 2005)
Pennington was an attorney in
Maryland. She took a personal injury case from Butler.
The case was thrown out
because the Statute of Limitations expired.
When Butler's complaint was
filed, the court clerk gave it an incorrect docket number.
Pennington didn't notice
until it was too late.
Pennington told the opposing
party (Amica Insurance) that the case had been dropped, but didn't inform
Instead, Pennington offered
to pay Butler $10k, which is what he had hoped to win in the settlement.
Pennington had asked a legal
ethics expert, Wiggins, who said that disclosure was not required.
Wiggins was only licensed
to practice law in DC, not Maryland.
Pennington paid Butler $10k,
minus her contingency fees. Then went after the doctor in an attempt to
have Butler's medical expenses reduced.
Pennington told the doctor
that Amica had settled the claim.
The doctor contacted Amica,
who contacted the Attorney Grievance Commission.
The Attorney Grievance
Commission filed charges against Pennington for violation of a number of
Rule 1.1, and Rule 1.3, Pennington didn't act competently or
diligently when she didn't notice the misfiled paperwork in time.
Rule 1.2, and Rule 1.4, Pennington didn't act within the scope of
her representation by giving the $10k to Butler without communicating the
reason why (Butler should have been given a choice to sue for legal
This is also a Rule
1.7(b), conflict of interest
violation, and a Rule 1.16(a)(1), failure to withdraw representation violation.
All of this amounts to a Rule
8.4, Misconduct violation.
The Hearing Judge ordered that
Pennington be suspended for 120 days, both sides appealed.
Pennington argued that she
had acted in good faith and relied on Wiggins' counsel.
The Appellate Court
permanently disbarred Pennington.
The Appellate Court found
the Rule 1.1, and Rule
1.3, violations were honest
However, the Rule 8.4 violation was egregious enough to warrant
Again, this case shows that
if a lawyer makes a mistake, they need to admit it immediately, it's the
cover-up that gets you disbarred, not the initial violation!